Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Cunningham, Phyllis M.

Degree Name

Ed.D. (Doctor of Education)

Legacy Department

Department of Counseling, Adult and Higher Education


Rural women--Education--United States


The researcher believes that the U.S. Cooperative Extension Services’ rural women’s home economic programs were reflective of capital investment in technical research; government concern for moderating cultural diversity, especially German immigrants, among its citizenship; and the arousing of social sentiments toward gender roles and expected behaviors in the home, the workplace, and civil society. This study focuses on the political, economic, and technological forces that drove U.S. ideology toward women’s learning during the 20th century. The Homemakers Extension Program, offered through the Cooperative Extension Services and the joint efforts of the U.S. Department of Agriculture through the Land Grant University, provides the mid-century backdrop for analyzing the purposes behind adult education programs directed toward rural women’s social development. Through autoethnography and open-ended and unstructured interviews, former members discuss their reasons for participating in the Homemakers Extension Program, what membership meant to them, and what they lost when the program eventually disbanded. Their learning struggles parallel the contextual experiences of trying to preserve rural Midwest life during changing technologies and social landscapes. Their struggle illustrates how values toward institutional traditions of home, family, and church still influence personal expectations for family and financial structures. The analysis of this study falls into three distinct categories: rural women’s social development outcomes based on the priorities established by the Country life Commission and one of the foundational purposes for home economics education programs for rural women; the impacts of conflicting feminist ideologies on social policy and learning agendas for rural women; and the confounding purposes of the Cooperative Extension Services and its switch from gender-related education due to changes in technology, social policy, and research agendas. However, new programs are emerging from the Cooperative Extensions Services and Land Grant Universities that include women in agriculture. Agrafeminism can be put forth by adult educators as a new movement that networks women farmers and ranchers who are planting the seeds of local agricultural knowledge. Agrafeminists celebrate women’s roles in agriculture and challenge the status quo of current agribusiness by seeking personal awareness of choices surrounding the production and consumption of food and fiber.


Includes bibliographical references (pages [154]-159).


xxv, 175 pages




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